Whenever I venture into the world outside and meet my readers and their adults, I come back with a rich haul of questions. I’ve put down as many of these as I can remember. If you have a question that is not on this list, please write to me.
What does a writer actually do?
There are many people in the world who believe that a writer lounges about all day in front of a TV, snacking on yummy things. Some people in my own family think this is what I do. And as for my neighbours…let’s not even try to guess what they think! But you and I know the truth – that a writer has to work very hard because she is essentially doing magic every single day. Think of it, which other profession requires you to create something out of nothing? And isn’t that what a writer does when she creates a story out of a tiny idea?
Where do you get your ideas?
Every writer gets this question, not once, but several times. And it is a truly fascinating one. How does a writer come up with something that can transport readers to new lands and far away places? There must be something secret and magical about the whole process.
The truth is far less romantic but a whole lot more practical – story ideas are all around us and that’s where I get them. But I find my ideas in the strangest places – in the vegetable market (which I love to go to, in search of vegetables, and sometimes, ideas about vegetables), in the kitchen (which I am forced to visit, to seek food), conversations that I overhear, things that I see or imagine I see.
Oh, and I get ideas when I ask questions like – Why aren’t there blue dogs and three eyed cats? Where would the ghost of a brown, spotted banana go? When does a cake know that it is going to be eaten?
How long does it take to write a story?
Every story comes with its own timeline. Stories for magazines or the newspapers take a couple of days.
A picture book story takes a few days. I write, rewrite and re-rewrite. Then I try to forget the story so that when I read it next, it’s exciting and new. Only then do I finalise it.
Novels take much longer, sometimes months as I write one draft and then correct, change, often even rewrite the whole novel. Some books are as stubborn as stuck windows, they simply refuse to open up. I’ve rewritten such stories four or even five times before they are ready to be sent to publishers.
How do you pick the illustrator for your book?
I don’t! My wonderful editors read my story and decide which illustrator’s style will be the perfect match for it.
Which of your books is your favourite?
Every story comes with its own little back story that makes it special for me. Pranav’s Picture and What Shall I Make? are my all time favourites because these were the first two stories accepted for publication. Some stories were written at a difficult time for me personally and therefore they are very precious. Others required extensive reworking and the final product was everything I had been aiming for, and so they are loved. Some stories were so funny that I was giggling as I wrote them. Basically, I simply cannot have a favourite book; it would be too unfair!
What do you do when a story of yours is rejected?
I allow myself some time to mourn the rejection because after all, it is very sad to be told that something you have created is not good enough for the people to whom you sent it. On such days I am a sad but determined writer. And when the sad feeling has been buried under exciting new ideas about a fresh story (though it never fully goes away and pops up suddenly at the strangest of times) I read the story to see how it can be improved. And then I go back to rewriting it. Once I finish working on it I send it off to another publisher and then wait.
How do you feel when you finish writing a book?
I feel a delicious sense of joy and accomplishment when I type the last line and know the first draft of the story is written. I feel happy and light enough to float and inside my head, that’s what I am doing. Oh, and I also grin. A lot.
What do you do when you finish writing a book?
I immediately start planning the next one! Sometimes I reward myself with a day off from work but with so many ideas in my head, it is difficult to keep away. And so I get back to writing.
How do you feel when you meet people who tell you they like your books?
I really like it when children tell me they liked my stories because they are usually far more truthful than grownups and will tell me exactly what they liked and didn’t like. So, if you’ve read my books and want to tell me your thoughts on them, do write to me.
What is the most difficult thing about writing?
Writing the first thousand words. I am absolutely terrified of starting a new novel. I put it off for as long as I can. And when I’ve run out of excuses, I sit down, take a deep breath and begin. Once I write the first thousand words, I can breathe.
But then comes the next challenge –writing the next thousand words.
And then the next thousand words.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I read and read and read. I talk to friends. I cook because I find it very satisfying. Also, the most fascinating ideas pop into my head when I am cooking. Perhaps that’s why many of my stories are about food.
How does one become a writer?
You must be prepared to do two things – read a lot and write a lot. Everything that you write should be new and different from what you wrote before that. You should be willing to keep working at a story till it sounds the way you want it to.